Looming 'skills crisis' amid dwindling land-based provision

The closure of Newton Rigg highlights the need for a land-based education strategy, MPs say
The closure of Newton Rigg highlights the need for a land-based education strategy, MPs say

MPs are calling on the government to invest in the future of land-based education in England or face a 'skills crisis' in its plans to reach net zero.

Cross-party MPs on the EFRA Committee have written to the Department of Education urging an implementation of a national strategy for land-based skills.

They have criticised the 'clear dissonance' between plans for the UK's greener future and a dwindling skills provision.

The number of specialist independent land-based colleges has fallen by almost 80% in the last four decades.

This means many potential students have faced long journeys to reach colleges or having to move away from home.

Meanwhile, the high cost of delivering land-based courses has led to providers selling their valuable land and assets to ease financial strains.

MPs said the threatened Cumbria-based agricultural college Newton Rigg served as a 'vivid illustration' of the difficulties facing land-based institutions.

In response to the college's closure, the Committee called on the government to tighten the safeguards on the sale of land-based educational assets.

MPs also asked for confirmation about the details of the transfer of the college, which they said had caused controversy locally.

Neil Parish MP, EFRA chair, said it was 'obvious' that farmers would not be able to meet the UK net zero goal if there wasn't enough young people with the right skills.

"Over the past 40 years, the number of independent land-based colleges has shrunk from 50 to just 11," he explained.

"Government needs to take steps now to ensure that a robust strategy- and adequate funding- is in place to boost land-based education to meet the challenges we face.

"In recent years, we have seen education providers forced to sell off the family silver to stay afloat, hurting their students and local communities.

"England’s future is its young people and their enthusiasm and commitment to protecting the environment.

"The government needs to provide the leadership and investment to harness that."